The sensations of cycling. At the core, that is what it is. That attracts me to cycling, that is.
I have pondered repeatedly on what it is about cycling that has captured my fascination. In pondering, I have thought back over the last 13 years that I have been having a serious affair with cycling.
Actually, I have enjoyed cycling since I was 5 years old. It was at that age that I was given my first bicycle. I awoke on Christmas morning to find a beautiful red and cream colored, single speed Schwinn that Santa Claus had left for me by the Christmas tree.
I had great fun riding that Schwinn down the hill next to the dairy barn behind our house, and then slamming on the coaster brakes and skidding the rear wheel around while I came to a stop. Shortly after, I learned what a great sound playing cards made when clipped to the wheels with clothespins. When I was old enough to drive, the bicycle quickly went into hiding. Since I could drive to a girl's house or into town, riding my bike just had no appeal.
I was reintroduced to the bicycle when I spent two years in France. I found my bicycle to be a fun form of transportation. (Actually, it was also often my only form of transportation.)
So upon returning to college, I purchased a bicycle, and often used that in preference to my car for getting to school. I tinkered with bicycles for the next several years.
But my affair really began in 1984. I had lost a substantial amount of weight, and was running regularly to help keep it off. I then began riding my bike occasionally for diversity.
Unfortunately, I injured my foot, and was unable to run for awhile. However, I could still pedal a bike. For the next few weeks, I got all my exercise from cycling and quickly learned I enjoyed cycling much more than running. I discovered many of the same sensations I enjoyed from running: Crisp, fresh air; refreshing exercise; and a sensitivity to my natural surroundings by not being cooped up in a car. Unlike running, I found I could cover more distance, see more countryside, in a given amount of time.
It was then that my relationship with the bike really took off. Before long, I was regularly ducking into bike shops to fed my newly-acquired addiction. Soon, I had purchased a beautiful racing bike, a purple ("beaujolais" they said) Trek 760, equipped with a full Campy Victory gruppo.
With that came cleated shoes, lycra shorts, cycling gloves (allowing the characteristic tan on the backs of my hands), and excitement that absolutely engulfed me. I soon joined Utah Premier, a local racing club, and started to race.
With racing, I thrilled at the speed and skills from pack riding in a fast criterium. I experienced the animal excitement of attacking so hard that no one could stay on my wheel, and then soloing to victory.
Of course, I also experienced that painful meeting with pavement when someone mishandled his bike. Additionally, I have known the embarrassment of being dropped so badly that when you struggle in front of spectators, they say dumb things to you. "Looking good." "Keep it up. You're almost there." "You're only two minutes behind. You can catch them." Right, if I could catch them, I would never have lost them in the first place.
Over the years, I have been fascinated by the synergistic sensations that exist between me and my bike as I ride. Many enjoyable hours have been spent repairing, cleaning, adjusting, and maintaining my metal mistress so that we could become one on the road.
Mostly, though, it has been the sensations that come just from riding: Feeling my muscles loosen up and then be able to respond to the demands of riding; smelling the fresh, crisp air of an early, fall morning; watching the orange, pink and red hues of an evening sunset; smelling the enhanced freshness and observing the intensified colors after a refreshing rainfall. Sensing my sagging spirits lift as the endorphins flow; relaxing as I stave off the effects of stress; feeling relief as I find solutions to nagging questions pondered during a ride. These and more are the sensations that I have realized and discovered while cycling.
I was riding from Salt Lake to Provo the other day. At the south end of the Salt Lake valley, I began the climb on the frontage road to the Point of the Mountain. I soon settled into a steady rhythm up the gradual climb.
As I rode, I felt the crisp wind blowing off the mountain as it hindered my progress. Then I heard the cheerful song of a meadowlark encouraging me on. As I crested the top and started down the other side, I dropped into my largest gear, peddled hard and then retracted into a tuck as my bike and I flew down the other side.
It was a reminder. The sensations of cycling. This is why I love to ride my